The Vasco Era
With two EP’s and three albums on the musical shelf, The Vasco Era have punctuated these recordings with nothing short of a seemingly unending touring cycle. As lovers of the stage, The Vasco Era have performed tirelessly since their inception ten years ago and a little time off is well deserved. Vocalist and guitarist (along with a splattering of other instruments) Sid O’Neill is venturing to Europe for what the band has cheekily dubbed some sort of mind and body expansion. Drummer Michael Fitzgerald is tying the knot while bassist Ted O'Neil is completing his teaching degree at the end of semester two this year and enjoying some time on placement. No, things are not ending for The Vasco Era, but they do need a break.
The boys are getting ready for a game of football when I speak to Ted. Despite his love of music, it will be art that he is teaching when he finishes his degree. “Dad’s an artist and so is mum,” O'Neil explains. “Dad actually managed the band for the first six months.” So the folks weren’t concerned when the O'Neil brothers decided they wanted to embark on a life of music? “No, not at all,” he laughs and goes on to discuss their eclectic childhood.
“When we were young we spent some time in Indonesia just travelling around all over. We went to Indonesia, Bali, Timor and places like that. We were followed around by two secret police the whole time we were there; these two guys just kept popping up everywhere we went. We were young so they didn’t approach us or do anything aggressive, they were just watching us and making sure were weren’t helping out the Resistance or anything like that. I was 13 or 14 and Sid would’ve been ten. They were just making sure that we weren’t giving any help or bringing anything in.”
O'Neil goes on to explain that despite the trio’s love of the music they play, time off was needed. “There’s just a lot of downtime,” he says. “In between having to do a whole bunch of stuff there’s a lot of waiting around so you find yourself opening a bottle of wine at midday.”
With the poster suggesting, albeit sarcastically, an end to the Era, I ask O'Neil whether the band feel that once a group is somewhat established, it is as though they need to justify a gig with some sort of gimmick or product. “I did the drawing for the poster and I thought, ‘Bugger it, I’ll write that’,” he laughs. “When we were first playing we were doing five or six shows a week in Melbourne. For the past few years we have always had to have something out and a reason to tour. The main reason is that if you do a tour and you have nothing to sell people don’t bother to come. It is a big thing.
“I still love the music and all of that but four or five years ago I realised it was definitely a business. Everything had to be really thought out before going and playing and it is our career, we do have to do those things, but it’s very different to the ideas you have when you start out.”
With bands like Kings Of Leon painting a turbulent picture of what family bands can be like, I ask O'Neil whether the sibling dynamic has ever had a negative impact on the band. “It’s never been a problem apart from your small arguments here or there,” he says. “They’re only ever either stupid brotherly stuff or arguments over how a song should go and that’s good because it shows that we’re both passionate about the music and we both care.”
I finish up by asking whether Sid’s departure and existential journey is open-ended and without a return ticket or whether the band have plans to get things moving again in the near future. “He’s gone for six months; his flights are booked,” he says. “We dunno whether we’re gonna come back and do a tour or come back and get straight into writing; we’ve deliberately left it. It’s ten years in October since we played our first show and we’ve been going ever since – whether that’s touring, doing an album or doing pre-production for an album so at the start of the recording of the last album we decided we would have a rest after this and have a time where we don’t have to think about it all.”
BY KRISSI WEISS
THE VASCO ERA‘s Last Show Ever! (for 2012), will take place at The Corner Hotel on Friday June 22 with support coming from Luke Legs & The Midnight Specials and Fraser A. Gorman.